As I drove back from a day kayaking on the Colorado River last night, my husband checked social media and mentioned an ‘outdoor adventurer’ had been labeled a “douche bag” (not my language) for using other people’s photographs without permission. Today I read a fellow outdoorsy Twitterer had noticed one of her photos being used without permission.
Firstly, the big picture. I love the outdoors. Chances are reading this you do too. We enjoy it, cherish it, and these days many of us share the sky, lake and mountain out of it via social media. All of this can make for great fun, inspiration, day-to-day motivation, and a sense of wonder and desire to protect what we love.
Secondly, I’m not involved, nor do I wish to name names. However, I thought the situation warranted a comment on the importance of authentic inspiration…
I unfollowed the person who had used other peoples’ images without attribution etc. Here’s why:
1 Shooting and processing amazing images such as those ‘borrowed’ takes time, patience, and investment in cameras, software and memory, a fine eye and other intricate elements. Aside from obvious legalities, to me the hard work deserves respect. This can be shown by following accreditation, copyright or further requests the photographer outlines. It’s the least we can all do to celebrate the passion and work behind artistic captures of any subject.
2a If the photos aren’t this persons’, what else is? How can I trust what someone says to inspire me when the photos accompanying their words aren’t their own? How genuine is this story I see? Is it a social media popularity contest? Why weren’t watermarks left? How hard is it to give credit where credit is due?
Does the person see himself or herself as a sharer of inspiration or THE inspiration? Why is this making me ask so many questions? How come my head hurts?
2b Closely related to 2a. People can be naïve online. I am guilty of this. Sometimes we don’t ask questions about sources, or question the validity of information, especially spoon-fed articles, images, and coverage. Instead, we click and like and share and heart without thought to what’s really happening, or happened.
I don’t want to be a zombie online, I want to ask questions and know the real story – from a mountain photograph’s location to recognizing a savvy product placement.
3 If I took Peter Boardman’s 1978 book The Shining Mountain, and published it word for word as some kind of epic blog series without accreditation and some random Himalaya photos, I think we all know what would happen… Daresay I also wouldn’t attempt it with Andy Kirkpatrick’s book Psychovertical, Andy is alive, and I’ve read that guy knows how to use a skyhook.
4 How would I feel if someone ‘ripped off’ my photos? What if my work received a lot more attention via someone else than when I shared it? Would I rise above, selfless, and think, ‘The important thing is sharing the out of doors to inspire…’ Or would I think, ‘Hey! That’s a precious piece of my life; I was THERE in that moment and decided to capture it. It’s my decision to share it, when and where I desire or request.’ Case in point, I attribute photos taken by other people on my blog whether they request it or not (too easy).
5 For me, the most inspiration in the outdoors comes from being there. It also comes from people who are out there doing stuff! Whether living in a van and climbing around North America, hiking a local trail and seeing wildlife, finishing an Ironman, or soloing a route in the Karakoram, whether I know you or not, it’s nice I can feel genuine admiration for your efforts.
The Internet, it’s such a wonder, making it possible to share stories and images we never had the opportunity to enjoy so easily. When I login, if I want illusion, I’ll read fiction.
If I want outdoor adventure inspiration, I’ll seek people of all ages, backgrounds, skills and interests, sharing what they’re seeing, feeling, experiencing, learning. Doing.